Worker Injured in Coal Power Plant Explosion

Workplace Injury at Coal-fired Power Plant

By:  John Myers, Duluth News Tribune

An employee of Minnesota Power's Taconite Harbor Energy Center was injured Monday morning in an explosion at the coal-burning power plant.

Minnesota Power reports that firefighters and emergency responders were called about 9:20 a.m. to the facility along the North Shore of Lake Superior and cared for 41-year-old Joe Fredrickson of Silver Bay, an 11-year employee who was in the coal bunker room at the time of the explosion.

Firefighters from the Tofte and Schroeder volunteer fire departments battled the blaze. They left later in the morning but were called back when another hotspot was found burning in the coal and in insulation in the ceiling, said Phil Bonin, Schroeder fire chief. Bonin said it appeared to have been a coal-dust explosion that caused several spot fires in the large building. He said it wasn't clear what may have triggered the blast.

Fredrickson was taken by ambulance to Cook County North Shore Hospital and later transferred to Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center and then to Miller Dwan Medical Center in Duluth. Minnesota Power officials said Fredrickson was in critical condition Monday evening but was conscious and communicative.

Amy Rutledge, spokeswoman for the Duluth-based utility, said the coal bunker facility, where coal is stored before it is burned in steam generators, was being filled with coal when the accident occurred. It's not yet clear what caused the accident, she said. Fredrickson was the only one in the immediate area, she said.

One of the two generation units continues to operate and generate electricity, and the accident was not expected to affect customers, Rutledge said. There was no damage estimate available Monday.

A similar explosion and fire occurred at the plant in August 2002.

Tags:  coal-fired power plant, power plant, coal power plant explosion, coal power plant hazards, fire protection, special hazard fire protection, power plant fire protection, fire protection for special hazards

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